It’s more than a hobby…(and a giveaway)

more than a hobbyThis past weekend I had the pleasure of attending Re:Write 2015, a writing conference unlike any other. Where some conferences focus solely on the nuts and bolts of writing well, finding agents, understanding the publishing world, etc., Re:Write touched on all of that (with sessions led by industry leaders like George Barna, Sandi Krakowski, Ted Dekker, Mark Batterson, Esther Fedorkevich, and so many others), but focused instead on the heart of the writer.

If you are called to write, the WRITE, anything less is disobedience. ~Mark Batterson (@MarkBatterson)

The heart of the writer can be a scary place. If you are not a writer, let me take you on a little journey.

As you walk up to the edge of the forest, you are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the trees that stand guard. They are strong and mighty, sometimes seemingly impenetrable. You see the scars that have been left, some cut deep through the bark, leaving that place vulnerable for a while until it can heal. The guard can seem intimidating and uninviting, but they serve to protect, not to harm.

As you step past those trees, you step into an open valley that was hidden from the outside. It is bright and welcoming, trusting to all who venture in. The flowers dance to the melody of the breeze, innocently opening to the sunshine above. But there are patches of burnt grasses that contrast to the gentility of the rest of the meadow. Where those burnt patches exist, a tree spouts to serve as a protector. That area will not be hurt again.

Venturing deeper, beyond the guardian trees, and the free-spirit meadow, you come to a ravine. The rocks are jagged and unsteady. A single misstep will guarantee a nasty fall. But despite the danger, you press on, finding a bridge that stretches the length of the ravine, guiding you to safety on the other side.

And once you reach the other side, you step into a place that can only be described as an Eden. The trees here are not so intimidating as they are comforting. The flora throughout isn’t blindly innocent, but rather confident in its beauty and identity. There, at the core, is where the magic of writing exists.

You see, the trees serve as protector against past and future naysayers. They guard the heart and can be perceived as abrasive and off-putting. The innocence of the meadow is the natural joy and childlike faith that is to be a part of every creative. We all have it. But when we get burnt, we try to protect ourselves as to not be hurt again. Then there is the ravine. That is the place of all of our fears and doubts. If we have been burnt enough times, that ravine can overtake the innocence of the meadow. But through trust and faith in Jesus, a bridge is built that connects the meadow to the Eden–the point of creativity and magic.

All writers have their world, and each world looks a little different. But what unites us is the irresistible urge to write and write and write. As Ted Dekker said, “Your writing is mostly your own spiritual practice. It is your healing.” It is how we worship God most purely.

I can make endless excuses not to write:

  • The kids are distracting
  • The house needs to be cleaned
  • Dinner needs to be made
  • It takes too long to get focused and I only have ten minutes
  • I haven’t showered yet and today I have to choose between the two (yes, this was actually a dilemma I have faced and contemplated)
  • and on and on and on…

But it comes back to that ever-so-important question that must be answered before anything else:

Has God called you to write? 

If the answer is yes, THEN WRITE!

I want to encourage any and all of you who are not writers, but are still dreamers. What has God called you to do? What is etched into your DNA like nothing else and you find yourself in a place of actual worship when you do it? Do that. Don’t worry about the details or the reasons not to do it. Step into the identity of who God has made you and own it!

I would love to hear what that is from you. If you don’t want to simply leave a comment below, feel free to email your answer to me at

I’m going to give away a book to someone who answers, so be sure to respond! 🙂


Blog Hop…Why I write.

As my 3 year old gains coordination, my husband and I have had a lot of fun trying to teach her new activities.  Forward somersaults, balancing, and jumping all included.  One such game that has been introduced is hopscotch.  Of course everything in our home reverts back to a Curious George reference (who knew that darn monkey had done SOOOO many things!).  Thankfully, there is an entire episode where George conquers the most epic hopscotch ever so Samara thus loves to play the game (season 2, episode 36, just in case you are dying to see it for yourself.  I know you are).

Think of this as a slightly altered, not-really-the same-at-all, cyber-version of hopscotch.  This is called a blog hop.  I was featured (along with a couple other people) by a friend who reads my blog and I then get to feature a couple of the blogs I follow* to introduce you to all that is wonderful in blogs-ville.

*On a side note, I realized how many blogs I follow where I don’t actually know the people and have had minimal interaction, if any at all.  I think I need to work on that, seeing as many of those I follow are for future hopes towards networking.

So my friend, Stephanie Reeves, included me in her blog hop last week.  My husband and I met Stephanie through working with the youth at our church in Orlando, Fl.  She has three amazing kids, two of which were in the youth group while we were leaders.  The entire family is awesome but of course, there was a minor detail with Stephanie being a Raiders fan and Kyle being a Broncos fan, but you know…minor details 😉

Stephanie, who has worked as a writer and editor for Cru, as well as a teacher, currently has two blogs: Compelled and That Senior Year.  She says, “Compelled is a mish mash of thoughts. Most of the time I use things I come across in everyday life to draw a spiritual parallel. Sometimes I talk about parenting; sometimes I talk about current events.”  And That Senior Year is chronicling her eldest’s final year in high school.


For this particular Blog Hop, each writer will answer four questions about their blog and their writing.  Then I get the opportunity to introduce you to a few bloggers that I adore (and think you should too)!  Ok, so here we go.

1.What am I writing or working on? Sooo…I just submitted my manuscript for my first book (insert happy/nervous shriek), Getting Past the Start.  With the first step (or 20) completed and waiting for the next round of edits to come back, I am currently researching for my next book which focuses on the idea of being sanctified and how that shapes our identity (you’ll hear more about it as I process my thoughts/frustrations/excitement).

Then I have this wonderful blog that serves as a melting pot for my thoughts/frustrations/excitements (see above).  It’s called simply living the life because I focus on everyday issues that I encounter as a wife, as a mom, as a mentor to youth, as a young woman trying to achieve her goals, but mostly as a daughter of God.  Sometimes the posts are serious and (hopefully) thought provoking and sometimes they drip with sarcasm (my attempt at humor though it may or may not translate as well as it does in the voice in my head).

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? I think that I have a unique ability to reach a pretty broad spectrum of people.  I have a sincere passion to reach the group dubbed YA (young adult), which includes teenagers and college kids, but I feel that many of my viewpoints can be equally appreciated by older generations (no, I did not just call you old. I promise).

God’s been grooming my heart and has begun to lay a true passion for understanding our identity in Christ.  This is something relevant for every person, of every socioeconomic background, of every race, of every generation.  I pray that I do it justice in my method of communication.

3. Why do I write what I do?  My husband (and all other members of my family) would be the first to tell you that I am a verbal processor.  Sometimes it comes out as what I unattractively call verbal vomit.  Those are moments when my brain is processing something beyond what I understand but I can’t contain it so I begin to verbally think through each and every aspect of it.  Sometimes, that’s how I write and sometimes, it’s the start of an idea that I then write about once I have processed it to a greater extent.

I write because I can’t contain it.  I love sharing insight as God grants it to me and I long to reach the masses with His messages.  I try to keep it real and approachable, but more than anything, true to the verity that God has revealed.

4. How does my writing process work? see above.  Seriously though, many times my blogs are a digital print out of my thought process at that particular moment.  I don’t edit much (if any) to keep it true and real.  It allows me the opportunity to fully develop a thought as it’s happening.

For the books…I’m honestly still figuring that one out.  I’ll let you know when I know 😉

Okay, now that you know a bit more about me and my writing, let me introduce you to a couple people:

2013-05-05 13.38.02First up is one of my favorite guys in the world, my dad, Charlie Shinn.  Yes, I am slightly biased but I love how he shares his heart on his blog, Integrity Dad.

First and most importantly(by his emphasis), he is saved by the grace of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He says, “I find that each day comes with the opportunity to walk with integrity following the example that Christ set for each of us 2000 years ago.  I seek to be a man of integrity, not to position myself above those around me for it is only by His grace that I even take my next breath.  But I seek integrity to be an example to others and to do all that I can to place a smile on God’s face.  My heart’s desire is that one day I will hear Him say “well done, good and faithful servant”.

I’m have been blessed to be married to my very best friend for 33 years and the blessings overflow when I add in two beautiful daughters, two son-in-laws, and four blessed grandchildren.  I’m a Christ-follower, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a farmer, and one who loves the world that God has placed me.
All that I am, all that I do, and all that I hope to be … it is not I but Christ who lives in me.”  I’m proud to be his daughter and I think you will appreciate the insight that he offers.
Next up is my friend John Fournier.  We got to know John and his wife while working with the youth.  He has an
incredible way of engaging you right where you’re at, which makes him an incredible youth leader. John is a transplant to Orlando from New England, a new husband and father, an avid sports fan, and a broken man trying to live an uncommon life through the
grace of God. He has a heart for helping others and it is evident by his passion for serving in youth ministry.
His blog, Who Are You?, was founded as a way to continue sharing his experiences with people of all ages, specifically youth, to try and help them figure out who God made them to be. Having traveled all over the country for his old job, he has impacted many communities and uses blogging to try and stay connected and influential. While not a self-proclaimed writer, John strives to expand the platform God has given him to reach out to as many people as possible
The last, but certainly not least, is Jonathan DugginsI got to know his wife, Stephanie, through the moms group at our church in Orlando.  Dad to three adorable little boys, he created this masterpiece of a blog that never fails to bring a smile to my face.  The Dad Workout takes some of the monotony and exhausting side effects of parenting and makes it fun and hilarious. Taken from the home page: “This revelation brought about the birth of another baby in my life:  The Dad Workout.  The photographs and posts on this site were inspired by experiences I’ve had as a new dad with my boys.  All the families featured here are real.  Disclaimer:  If you’re looking for a serious workout plan, this is not it.  The exercises featured here were created to make you sweat a little but ultimately to laugh about what we go through to raise the next generation.  Share your stories and photos of fatherly awesomeness.  Join the ranks of men as we grab fatherhood by the love handles and bask in the glory of everything DAD. “
If you are a parent, or think that you may be at some point, or even if know for a certain that you will never ever in a million years submit yourself to that kind of torture, you need to check out The Dad Workout.
On a side note, my husband won second place in a contest they were doing.  You can see it here.  Yeah, I’m proud.
Ok, that’s it from me I guess.  Hope you enjoy these 3 new blogs to explore!

Attacks against identity

I am up to my ears in edits and self-doubt.  I want to submit my manuscript next week, but every time I read through it, I find something new to change (shift, reword, delete).  My mind races with all of the possibilities of “what if.”

What if no one buys it?

What if the people that do buy it are disappointed and never want to buy another one of my books again?

What if I fail?

Yesterday was an extremely trying day of doubts.  While trying to take honest critique and improve, I found myself wallowing in my own self pity before any of my writing has even had a chance to garner the negative impact I was subconsciously bracing for.  I want to grow and improve, but I also want people to like me (yes, even I can be a people pleaser in certain areas of my life).

What I was wanting to hear was an assurance of my skills, but what I needed to hear was an assurance of my identity.

Who am I?  Well, I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mom.  I’m an avid Gator fan and a 5th generation Floridian.  I’m a writer and a wannabe foodie.  But more than anything, I am a daughter of the King.

My self-doubt wasn’t because I think I’m a terrible writer.  I think I write jumbled thoughts that often times need to be unraveled, but I think I have good things to say.  If I truly believed I was terrible, I wouldn’t waste my time and money to pursue my dream of being a successful author.  My self-doubt was because in those moments, I forgot that my worth is not built upon my job.  My worth is built upon my identity.

Satan likes to attack us in a number of ways.  Temptation can take the shape of anything.  Desire for money or esteem.  Longing for companionship. Belief that we aren’t pretty enough or smart enough or good enough.  But the real challenge is recognizing that all of those attacks and temptations are rooted in one thing: getting you to forget that you are so incredibly valuable that Jesus took the form of man, lived a perfect life, and then died a horrendous death to pay the penalty for you.

What I do is relative, but who I am is monumentally life changing.

Even if I fail, I am not a failure because God works all things “for the good of those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  The Bible is full of “failings” that God was able to redeem for His glory.  Who am I to doubt what the power of God can do through my own life when I have the faith enough to believe?

Matthew 19:26 says, “With God ALL THINGS are possible.”  I just need to remember and trust that.  I am not working for man.  I am not writing for man.  I am surrendering my hopes and dreams and greatest desires to the will of God, knowing that His will is to bless me.

Who am I?  I am a daughter of the King of the universe, Author of creation, and Savior of my soul.  I am His, and I believe that I am solely who HE says I am.  Forever.

Moving Past the Start Intro.

Below is the introduction to my book Moving Past the Start (working title).  I’m not posting this to be lazy and not write something new and inspired for you all, my wonderful blog readers.  This is to share my heart.  This (what is written below) tells you my passion and I can think of nothing more vulnerable for me to do at this point than to share it with all of you.  I hope as I continue to complete this adventure I am calling writing a book (ahh! sorry, momentary freak out about the daunting task that is proving to be), I will share more snippets from my research and discoveries.

Feel free to comment, I welcome the critique (I think) 🙂


I love books that inspire change.  It’s not just about reading the words and going on with your life. Instead, it’s about reading the words, allowing your soul to digest what they are saying and giving the Spirit the freedom to move in your life and prompt change.  Tom Stoppard says, “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”

It is all too easy to read a good (and inspiring) book, feel the conviction from the first page to the last, then set it aside with simply, “that was a good book,” mentality and never change your direction.

Andy Stanley says, “Direction, not intention, determines your destination.”

I want to be a world changer.  Not by myself, but I want to inspire others to join in and become world changers.  It’s not as impossible of a dream as it may sound.  We each have a unique circle of influence.  Some people have a very small circle, whereas others have what seems like impossibly large circles (I’m friends with a couple of these people).  We are not asked to change the world by ourselves, rather spread the need for change within our own circles.  Then those within our circles spread it to their circles, and so on.  This ripple effect can genuinely change lives, and thus, change the world.

I dream a lot.  I like to imagine what it would be like to be an author (for a living) and be asked to speak at conferences sharing the insights that God has given me.  I imagine what it would be like to create a nonprofit organization to reach young ladies. To create an organization whose entire purpose is built to encourage and inspire them in their faith and provide resources for them to achieve their dreams.  I imagine what my girls will be like as they grow older.  I imagine what the world will look like for this next generation, and that leads me to imagine what it will be like when Jesus comes back.

The world is quickly falling apart and Christians speak against a lot of what is going on, but how much are we actually doing?  We post quotes and stats on our social media pages, but never leave the comfort of our couches to actually do anything about that which we are “standing” against. We’re writing until our fingers develop calluses to inspire change, but if we don’t start that change, what good are our words?

The older I grow, the more I realize that my comfort zone is as an introvert.  I like being around people I know and have relationships with.  I like spending time with just my family and find it challenging to be put in the middle of a group of people I don’t know and be asked to initiate conversation.  But what good does that do in regards to the Kingdom?  I talk with people I already know, who already know me.  I share my story with people who have either already heard it, or who don’t need the wisdom I’ve learned from living it.

God allows certain events to occur in our lives (both good and bad) to guide us and to change us, and to ultimately grow us.  He is cultivating our lives to change his Kingdom and to bring as many hearts to him as we can prior to the second coming.  He is allowing us time to reach out to more people.  That is why Jesus hasn’t come back yet.  Not because the world hasn’t gone to hell and a hand basket more than once.  Think of all of the atrocities that have been piling up in this world, the straight up inhumanities that are occurring in our own back yards.  And what are Christians doing about it?  Sitting in our pews on Sunday morning, singing about the mercies of our God, resting in our “middle class” comfort zones with our 3/2 homes and minivans, sheltering our children from all of the injustices of this world by not allowing them to live in the world and learn how to live in the world without being of the world…it does nothing to change it.  Yes, enjoy and learn from those gifted to teach on Sunday mornings (or Thursday nights, or Saturday nights, whenever you go to service).  Yes, thank God for providing you with a wonderful home, a vehicle to get to and from, and an income that allows your family to be in need of nothing.  Yes, guard the hearts of your children however God leads you to and train them up in the way they will go so that when they are older they will not stray from it.

But what are we doing about changing the word?  Where are we allowing God to take us that will allow Him to show the world all of his wonder and glory?  And why are we, as believers, okay with staying in our comfort zones when God has clearly called us to so much more?

That is what this is about.

This is about change.

This about realizing the potential that God has placed inside each and every one of us and allowing him to take back control of that potential to allow it to become a reality.

This about getting out of the blocks of the race that we have, up to this point, been okay with watching rather than participating.

This is about getting past the start and finishing strong so that on that day, you can stand before God and he can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”